Saturday, February 18, 2017

NZ Church leaders call for rethink on deporting Indian students

Cardinal John Dew of Wellington has appealed to fellow Catholic, Prime Minister Bill English, to reconsider plans to deport Indian students caught up in an immigration fraud.
Cardinal Dew has issued a joint statement, along with the national leaders of the Anglican and Methodist Churches, asking the Government to act on "our Christian responsibility to care for 'the stranger, the widow and the orphan' among us".

Most of the students were taxpaying workers, according to their visa conditions, and they were contributing to the New Zealand economy, the statement said.

They could not draw New Zealand benefits because they were not citizens or residents. Immigration New Zealand seemed to have erred in its processes and the actions of the immigration agents needed careful scrutiny, the religious leaders said.

The Indian students and their families who face deportation have been staying at the Unitarian Church in Ponson by since Feb 6 in symbolic sanctuary.

The students have been issued deportation orders because their agents in India submitted fraudulent bank loan documents to prove that the students could afford to pay their tuition fees.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has declined their appeals to intervene in the deportation process.

The students' plight has garnered support from unions, political groups and members of the public.

Vicar-General of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington, Monsignor Gerard Burns, speaking for Cardinal Dew, said the Government changed immigration rules to let several hundred Filipino dairy farm workers stay in New Zealand in 2015 after similar fraud by their immigration agents.

"This is a change of practice and an inconsistency of practice," Burns said.

He said Christians believed in welcoming and caring for "the orphan, the widow and the stranger in the land".

Anglican Church Primate Archbishop Philip Richardson said he spent two years at a seminary in India in the 1980s and understood how being deported would affect the students.

The statement was also signed by Methodist Church NZ president Reverend Prince Devanandan.

Meanwhile Unitarian Church Minister Reverend Clay Nelson said his church was offering the students "radical hospitality, "a willingness to invite all people into your house as if they were Christ.

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